A week ago, I put together a throwback piece about Greg W. Harris, the Colorado Rockies' first pitching bust. And while that was certainly a depressing memory (how many pitching busts have come since?) it also took me down the road to reminiscing about the Rockies of the past.
So today, here we are. What's your favorite Rockies memory? This can be real or apocryphal; I have one real moment, and one that's likely apocryphal to share today, but I've enjoyed both for so long that hey, why not? (There are some great apocryphal Rockies moments out there, by the way.)
Enjoy this walk down memory lane!
On September 18, 2007, in the second game of a doubleheader with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Rockies scored four runs in the final two innings to overcome an 8-5 deficit and win their third straight game at what ended up being the beginning of their historic Rocktober run.
Two of the four runs came on this pitch, thrown by Takashi Saito and sent into the night off the bat of Todd Helton:
(Everybody notice Dinger behind the plate.)
There are a few reasons I remember this game — well, the set-up to this game — which took place at the very beginning of my senior year in college. It all started four days before, on Saturday, September 15, when the Marlins beat Colorado 10-2. I remember calling my dad that Saturday night as I typically always do during college football season, and talking for about three hours about sports. (We still do this, by the way.)
On that Saturday night phone call, both of us lamented another lost season for the Rockies, sitting firmly in fourth place with just two weeks left in the season. Sure, they were a few games above .500, but there were too many games to overcome, and too short a time to do it... we figured.
After the Rockies won by 13 runs on Sunday (it was just one win... big deal, right?), and then enjoyed an off-day Monday, they played a doubleheader with the Dodgers on the 18th of September. A game one win brought us to the infamous Helton walk-off in game two. But even while it was off Saito — at the time as dominant a closer as there was in the game — it was still just the Rockies' third consecutive win and not nearly enough of a preview into what would soon come.
But the more I look back at it — and hindsight plays a significant role here — Helton's walk-off really was a harbinger for Rocktober. Here was a man who typically kept a stiff upper lip in many of the most emotional moments of his career, and yet on this walk-off, he absolutely lost his sh*t celebrating with the team. When, before or since, have you seen Helton toss his helmet 50 feet in the air and hurdle himself into a dog pile at home plate?
Seeing that highlight alone, watching Helton go so uncharacteristically berserk tipped me off. Huh. Maybe there's something going on here, I thought the next morning when I saw the highlight in my North Carolina college apartment. ...And then, sure enough, the Rockies up and decided to stop losing for a while.
I picked this as one of my favorite moments in Rockies history because it seems like the celebration was a sign, as we look back, that the team had a secret. They knew something we didn't. It was only three wins at that point — there was certainly no guarantee of an improbable Rocktober run — but watching Helton and Holliday run around the bases like two excited ten-year olds high on sugar and candy makes me think maybe there were 25 guys in that locker room who realized something special was coming.
My other Rockies moment is far more apocryphal. That is, I can't successfully corroborate it, but I've heard it for years. Maybe you have, too. It's this:
As you watch Eric Young's home run leave the park, notice left fielder John Vander Wal (a future Rockie!) and center fielder Marquis Grissom come together at the wall only to see the ball sail into the ecstatic Mile High Stadium crowd.
The way I've always heard it, Vander Wal turned to Grissom after the home run, with the two standing fifteen feet apart in the outfield. Grissom was saying something, Vander Wal could tell, since his lips were moving. Vander Wal couldn't hear a word because of the thunderous roar of the Mile High crowd.
Hmmm, Vander Wal apparently said to himself, we might be in trouble today. Sure enough, the Rockies won 11-4.
I can't find that specific story anywhere online. I can find a somewhat similar story in a book, but it's doesn't have the same particular details. I'm not sure why I even like this story so much; perhaps the picture of Mile High Stadium rocking in my head has outgrown the truth, especially since you can plainly see on the video that Vander Wal and Grissom walk away from each other and don't appear to speak, at least not on camera.
Anyways, those are my favorite moments. I don't know what it says about me that I picked moments not directly related to Rocktober (like, the play-in game or something), which was arguably the greatest time in Rockies' history. I don't know. For some reason, I just like these two moments the best.
The Rockies are one of the younger teams in the big leagues, but I'm interested to see what the general consensus is among fans about singular, notable moments in franchise history. What's your favorite moment in Rockies history?